Scenes from Spring Training: Finding cool things in Scottsdale

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Scottsdale is a strange place. It was once named one of “America’s most livable cities,” but most of it gives off an air of exclusivity, telling you that if you don’t like golf, trendy restaurants and expensive planned communities, you’re not going to enjoy yourself very much here.  Which is fine for Scottsdale, because there are a lot of people who like those things, so this is all my problem, not Scottsdale’s.

But there are little exceptions, I’m finding.  One exception is a nice cozy establishment called TT Roadhouse where this reporter replenished himself last night. Fine place. Dark with a good jukebox. Good beer and an unassuming clientle that, at least last night, was on the safe side of excessive hipsterism, the presence of PBR on draft notwithstanding. It made me happy that such a place exists in a town like Scottsdale, suggesting that no matter how far our Republic slides sideways, there will always be something good and cool surviving in the cracks.

Another nice thing is Scottsdale Stadium, spring home of the San Francisco Giants.  It opened in 1992, which was an awkward time for any ballpark to have been built, what with the new wave of nostalgic joints not yet crashing over the ballpark construction industry and the march toward opulence not yet firmly taking hold. A park built at that time ran a pretty high risk of being a utilitarian nightmare.

Scottsdale Stadium avoids that, however. Part of that may be the result of a recent renovation, but the bones of the place are solid, strong and altogether pleasant. The first pitch is a couple hours away, but it all seems like a pleasant and efficient baseball game delivery device. In this — and in its in-town, on-the-grid location — it reminds me a lot of City of Palms Park in Fort Myers where the Red Sox play.  I think I’m going to enjoy myself today.

When I got here I headed down to the Giants’ clubhouse and checked that scene out a bit. More on that later.  For now, though, know this: the Giants are a very relaxed bunch. A veteran team doing veteran team things.  There are reminders that they are the reigning World Series champs everywhere you look. It’s written on signs and shirts and most conspicuously, on that freshly-painted logo behind home plate, still roped off as I type this and the Giants take the field for their pregame workout.

A pregame workout that I’m going to go check out now and report back to you later.

Nick Markakis leads all NL outfielders in All-Star voting

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I would hope by now that I no longer have to preface All-Star talk with my usual “none of this matters” disclaimers, but please keep all of that in mind when I mention that Nick Markakis is leading all National League outfielders in All-Star voting.

Markakis, with 1,173,653 votes, has surpassed the slumping Bryce Harper in that category. Harper has 1,002,696 votes. The third place outfielder is Matt Kemp of the Dodgers with 925,697. Fourth place — Charlie Blackmon of the Dodgers — is like 300,000 votes back of Kemp.Yes, Markakis, Harper and Kemp may be the starting NL outfield. Brandon Nimmo — not on the ballot — should be grumpy, but he’ll get his chance I’m sure.

The thing about it: Markakis, for as unexpected as his appearance may be on this list, deserves to at least be in the top three. He’s second in WAR among National League outfielders behind Lorenzo Cain. He’s slowed down a good bit in June and he’s coming off of a 2017 season in which he had a 96 OPS+ and 0.7 WAR, but he’s having quite an outstanding season. I write that mostly so that there is a record of it come October and we’ve all forgotten it.

Seriously, though, good for Markakis, who has never made an All-Star Game. Good for Kemp too for that matter, who most people assumed was a walking — well, limping — corpse heading into this season. Good for Harper because anything that can keep up the guise of him having a good year when, in reality, he’s really not, will help his confidence as he heads into free agency.

Finally, good for the American League, who will likely get to face a far, far inferior National League team next month in Washington.

The rest of the voting: